A Story About Steam Engines and the
Missouri River Valley Steam Engine Association

As told by Stanley E. Perry, MRVSEA Charter Member, January 19, 2009
MRVSEA Monthly Newsletter, October 2009


Our dad, Ed Perry, was a steam engine man and he had a sawmill and a threshing machine that he pulled around through the country. The sawmill was pretty much set, that is, it was more stationary. The main power for all that back at that time up through the fabulous 30's was steam power. Us kids got indoctrinated thoroughly about the use of steam. When we were just about 10 years old, dad had us putting wood in the fire boxes of the steam engine and keeping steam up while he was back there minding the separator, which was a full time job. I remember one time when he notices that the steam engine was getting kind of lazy in its pulling of the separator and he comes to the back. The fire is down. We're ten year old kids and we're goofing off just having a big ole time instead of splitting wood and putting it in the fire box. You talk about kicking some rear ends; we got straightened out pretty fast.

He got busy and chopped up some wood and put it in the firebox and never did he say a word outside the fact that we got our little rear ends kicked. So after that we knew enough that it was better to let it pop off with a full head of steam than to let it get down to, I think it was 70 or 80 pounds. At that time we were carrying about 150 pounds on the engine.

We'd marvel at the steam power and at the governor and how the governor was so sensitive to the load that the separator was creating on the engine and how it was making it pull - getting right in there and getting it. It wasn't no time at all after you put the wood in there that the Rumley Steam Engine would begin to bark furiously. On one of dad's runs we learned later in the day that the word had filtered down through the ranks that they were going to try to choke Papa Ed down that afternoon late. This would have been a hell of a deal, because if the separator stopped running or it throwed the belt off or something while all that straw was going through, it would call for having to get in there and clean it all out by hand.

"Uncle Stan - who was going to try to shut him down?"

Just the farmers that he was threshing for - just some devilment that they had cooked up for that afternoon. But, Papa Ed got on to it in time.

We had this sticky stuff that you had to take and hold it on the belt while it was running - it makes the belt stay tight and pull better. You had to take and hold it on the belt while it was running. It was a bit of a trick and you didn't want to get too close to the pulleys while you done that in case any of your limbs would go under the pulley - it would be fatal.

In time we converted to the Rumley Oil Pull, which burned kerosene and was the tractor we had been thoroughly indoctrinated in all the quirks of steam. Papa Ed was not a man to rest with the engine he had on hand - every year there'd be a good chance that he would have traded for a different engine. But he was a "Rumley" man. So the fact is that all this steam technology was put into our brains. Also the Railroads had steam power and we marveled at the way those steam locomotives could pull those long trains. We Perry boys definitely had a pension for seeing steam engines run. One of the favored steam engines we'd like to hear was the Keck Gonnoman. It had an exhaust on it that was very, very noticeable - it had kind of a clip sound to it. Dad mostly had Rumley single and double engines and towards the last he had the big engine - the twin cylinder steam engine that had a crankshaft, it had one crank and one cylinder on a pulley - if I remember right.

Every year, Mr. Peacock in Fulton, Missouri, would have a steam engine show. This was one man doing this with some help from steam enthusiasts. I never did own a full sized engine, but I did have a 5-horse that Harry Davis helped me put together. It was on a platform and we'd haul that down there. We'd use the barky pieces that came off the sawmill and we'd make a fire wood with that - we'd saw off at about 16 inches in length - we kept busy with that. My little 5-horse engine did a nice job. This was in the 1960's. We went to Mr. Peacock's show for about 10 years.

Mr. Peacock was getting along in years and he was going to quit. By that time he had over 50 engines that he had bought. I got to see all the engines lined up before he died. So when we learned that he was going to shut down, the old man was quite concerned whether the show was going to go on. But he was getting too old to put that on every year by himself, you know. He lived right in the north edge of Fulton and he was doing it all himself.

There were about 20 of us that used to go to his show in Fulton - we wouldn't all get together in a unit - we'd go in separate cars. I'd load the 5-horse Wach Steam Engine and take it to the show.

Mr. Peacock died and the family had a big sale and disposed of them all. So with him shut down completely, we saw the opportunity to start the show in Boonville. We had our first show in...I think it was in 1964. It was in the fall of the year after all the crops were pretty much all in. By that time they didn't use steam anymore.

The first Boonville show was held right here in Boonville. The fair grounds at that time was now where the Fuqua Homes is and the heel factory that supported the Hamilton Brown Shoe Factory was there too. Loretta helped by taking tickets.

(Submitted by Mary Ellen Kanak with her Uncle Stan's permission)